Firm brings new life to schools

Ogdensburg project is Bernier, Carr’s biggest yet for single client

Loran Construction employee Dennis L. Sharlow, Pierrepont, builds a wall in a classroom at Grant C. Madill Elementary School in Ogdensburg using cement blocks and mortar. Photo by Jason Hunter.

School may be out for summer, but within the buildings of the Ogdensburg City School District people are hard at work.

With the help of the Watertown-based engineering, land surveying and construction management firm Bernier, Carr & Associates, P.C., the district is undergoing a $57.2 million reconstruction and addition project, the largest in its history. The scheduled work includes sustainability initiatives, technological updates, grounds enhancements and the addition of resource, title and speech spaces as well as much-needed renovations.

“It’s the biggest project we’ve ever been involved in with a single client,” said Shawn M. Travers, principal and architect at Bernier, Carr. “In a lot of the buildings, they really haven’t done significant work since the 1990s. They’ve kind of picked away at a few things like roofs and windows, but they haven’t tackled a lot of the infrastructure needs like the boilers and lighting.”

The mammoth project had its inception in 2005, when Bernier, Carr began maintenance work on Lincoln Elementary and Sherman Elementary. Because the schools were small, antiquated and not handicapped accessible, a long-term plan was developed to close them and send the students to Grant C. Madill Elementary School on Jefferson Avenue and John F. Kennedy School on Park Street.

The plan eventually developed to include upgrades to all the district’s facilities and was voted into the budget by a wide margin in October 2010. The plan includes three phases, the first of which was completed last July and involved $5.5 million in improvements and repairs to the Edgar A. Newell II Golden Dome sports facility.

The second phase of the project is getting underway this summer. It includes nearly $4 million in reconstruction and additions at Madill, a $218,000 elevator replacement at Ogdensburg Free Academy and $15.6 million of work at Kennedy.

The work at Kennedy will include the addition of 18 classrooms to accommodate the influx of students from Lincoln and Sherman elementaries. It will also include the construction of a new cafeteria, stage, gymnasium, health office and administrative offices as well as an interior renovation that includes sustainability initiatives such as energy-efficient boilers, lighting systems and air handling units. A new stone entrance with paneled windows will be built to represent the Ogdensburg Harbor Lighthouse, and new roof sections will incorporate an existing barrel-vault design to tie together the additions with the older part of the building.

To determine the interior classroom designs at Kennedy, architects from Bernier, Carr held a series of focus meetings with Ogdensburg teachers and administrators to come up with a plan.

“We customized where the teacher spaces were going to be, we customized the types of cabinets that would be provided,” Mr. Travers said. “Same thing with the first grade classrooms and second grade classrooms — we met with those teachers and started to lay those areas out. They’re very excited to be able to have a space that they can actually design, rather than having to take what they have and make it fit the space they were given.”

[Editor’s note: This is a truncated version of this story. For the full version, please see NNY Business in print or subscribe.]

Gabrielle Hovendon is a former Watertown Daily Times reporter and freelance writer who lives in Watertown. Contact her at